This introductory chapter reconsiders African American music and culture in the gendered context, however, it situates the discussion within masculinity and male performance. Rather than neglect women's excluded histories, this chapter argues that gender studies cannot or should not preclude the study of men if only to interrogate presumptions of male privilege and the kinds of constructions of masculinity that are herein critiqued. It makes a number of connections between masculinity and race as kinds of ritualized performance that have particular types of aesthetic markers and that depend upon certain histories and cultural memories. Here, masculinity as well as racial performance—of blackness and of whiteness—are interrogated in the context of one of the most commercially and culturally important musical styles of the last quarter century.
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